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Healthy, not by choice

If the current wave of health legislation continues, we may all be forced into compulsory exercise as in North Korea.
This is according to Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw, who asked at what point "does one draw the line?".

In a bid to curb rising obesity rates and a growing burden of lifestyle diseases and weight problems in children, the Department of Health has passed new laws and proposed quite radical legislation.

Reducing salt in food by law, proposing to ban advertising of unhealthy food on daytime television and forcing companies to remove inaccurate health claims from food packaging are just some of the measures being taken.

They have been praised by public health experts as a way of enabling South Africans to be healthier and live longer.

But Louw says there is no regulatory assessment of the impact of the laws.

A cost-benefit analysis of potential laws is "the case in most other countries", he says.

Some of the changes are:
  • A draft law that bans advertising of foods high in sugar, fat or salt on TV and radio from 6am to 9pm. It can be commented on until August 29. The draft law also targets unhealthy food in school tuck shops;
  • A draft that eliminates restaurant smoking zones and all indoor smoking. Comment is closed;
  • A law has been passed that forces producers of complementary medicines to submit products to the same tests required by the pharmaceutical industry;
  • The alcohol advertising ban has not been fully passed yet;
  • The health minister wants cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging; and
  • Increased taxes on fizzy drinks and fruit juices with added sugar are being considered.

But Louw says laws that cannot be enforced make a mockery of the rule of law.

The head of the Vitality Institute, Derek Yach, says regulation should be a last resort after education and health incentives have failed.

Advertising commentator Chris Moerdyk says the proposed ban on junk-food advertising could cost more jobs than the alcohol advertising ban, which is estimated at about 12000 jobs. But health experts say alcohol abuse costs the economy R240-billion a year.
Healthy, not by choice
Katharine Child | 01 August, 2014 00:06

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